Friday, March 11, 2011

"What we have in this state right now is perpetual tolling..."

Bill would limit toll roads

March 11, 2011

Daily Court Review
Copyright 2011

Toll roads would become free public roads after they are paid for under a bill considered by the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. The bill would also prevent toll road profits from being applied to future road projects. Senator Steve Ogden of Bryan sponsored the provision in 2003 that permitted tolling entities to charge extra money to generate surplus to build more roads. At the time, said Ogden, lawmakers didn’t think that Texans would support raising the gas tax to fund road construction. They saw toll revenue as a good alternative method for raising transportation funds. As it turned out, said Ogden, Texans were just as opposed to toll roads as they were to raising taxes.

Ogden’s bill, SB 363, would prevent a tolling entity from collecting a toll on a road once acquisition and construction costs have been paid off. Once that happens, the maintenance of the road would be turned over to the Department of Transportation, funded by gas tax revenue. Ogden said he thinks that once building costs are paid due, the tolls should go away. "What we have in this state right now is perpetual tolling," said Ogden. "Once the system is complete and paid for, people shouldn’t have to pay the toll."

The committee also looked at a bill that would set new criteria for how state transportation dollars are distributed regionally. Bill sponsor Plano Senator Florence Shapiro said the current funding allocation system doesn’t recognize the reality of transportation and congestion problems in Texas. "Urban congestion needs and rural statewide connectivity needs should not have to compete for the same revenue source because they have vastly different needs," she said.

Under current law, the state Transportation Commission decides how to spend highway money, but Shapiro said neither the Legislature nor the general public has a clear understanding of the standards the Commission uses to distribute these dollars. Her bill, SB 161, would require the Commission to draft new state planning rules. It would also divide current transportation funds into rural and urban pools, with each pool having different standards for allocation, based on the different needs of rural and urban planning. "We’re trying to ‘fair up’ the system," she said.

Both bills remain pending before the committee.

© 2011 Daily Court Review:

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"You can’t escape toll roads in North Texas."

Transportation Planners Wary Of State Senate Toll Road Bill

Toll Road Kill


Reporting Jack Fink
CBS 11 News (Dallas Fort-Worth)
Copyright 2011

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Under a new bill introduced in the State Senate this week, once toll roads are paid off, they would become free roads maintained by taxpayers.

It’s a move reminiscent to some North Texans, particularly those who watched the old Dallas-Fort Worth turnpike toll road turn into Interstate 30.

But instead of toll road users, taxpayers had to foot the $100 billion bill to expand the highway from Dallas to Fort Worth. And transportation planners point out there’s still no seamless interchange here with State Highway 360, something that would have likely been built if tolls were still collected.

Love them or hate them, but you can’t escape toll roads in North Texas.

“Don’t mind paying the toll fees because it’s convenient and they’re good roads,” said driver Dan Sustaire.

Other drivers feel the tolls are unfair; why should drivers continue to pay for a public service after its costs have been covered?

“I don’t think it’s fair that people are paying for the toll roads after they’ve been paid for,” said Rita Casarez, another driver.

But the area’s lead transportation planner, Michael Morris, says the state is running out of money to build new or expand existing roads. He says this bill – SB 363, drafted by Senator Steve Ogden (R – Bryan) – would hurt this area’s efforts to pay for roads on its own.

“There’s not a lot of interest in raising taxes so it’ll be very detrimental to our region to not have a system where we’re able to use revenues for a project to build another project,” Morris said.

Morris uses State Highway 121 in Collin County as an example of a toll road that gave the region more than $3 billion to funnel into other road projects.

That money provided a down payment for expanding LBJ in Dallas, expanding Farm to Market Road 2499 in Grapevine, and the soon-to-be widened Central Expressway in McKinney.

It also helped fund intersection improvements around North Texas, as well as bike paths.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with that,” Sustaire said. “The funding’s got to come from somewhere.”

Back on I-30, Sustaire said he doesn’t like the fact there’s no seamless intersection, which means he has to stop at a light before getting onto the other road.

“It’s fairly inconvenient,” he said. “It slows down traffic.”

Transportation planners say as it stands right now, the missing interchange at I-30 and State Highway 360 may not be built for another 20 plus years.

© 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc:

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Central Texas RMA awards another toll road contract to Spanish firms Cintra-Ferrovial

Ferrovial awarded contract to build section of road in Texas
  • Agroman, through Webber, will build a 10-kilometer section of the Manor Expressway, northeast of Austin, Texas.
  • Construction is expected to commence in June 2011 and will provide faster access to downtown Austin.

To view more on Cintra-Ferrovial click HERE

Press Release
Copyright 2011

Madrid- Ferrovial, through Webber, Ferrovial Agroman's US construction subsidiary, has been named Preferred bidder in consortium with Texas Sterling Construction Company to design and build a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) section of the Manor Expressway, northeast of Austin, Texas.

This contract, worth 150 million euro (207 million dollars), was awarded by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Construction is expected to last from June 2011 until January 2014.

When the project is completed, Manor Expressway will connect State Highway 130 and Interstate 35 in downtown Austin. This new road will better connect the city's main business areas, residential zones, schools and suburbs.

Presence in the US

Ferrovial is one of Spain's leading investors in the US and its largest investor in US transport infrastructure. Through Cintra, it has five toll road concessions which are operational or under construction: Chicago Skyway, Indiana Toll Road, and SH 130, NTE and LBJ in Texas. Those five roads together represent a total investment of close to 9.8 billion euro. Webber is a leading civil engineering company in Texas. The company was acquired by Ferrovial Agroman in 2005. In 2010, Webber's revenues totalled 490 million euro (up 12.5% compared with 2009) and it had a backlog of 1.529 billion euro (up 37% like-for-like).


Founded in 1952, Ferrovial is one of the world's leading infrastructure groups, operating through its airports, toll roads, construction and services divisions. It has some of the world's top privately-owned infrastructure assets, such as 407 Express Toll Route in Toronto, London's Heathrow Airport, Chicago Skyway and Ausol toll road in Spain. Ferrovial is part of Spain's blue-chip IBEX-35 index and also of the prestigious DJSI and FTSE4Good sustainability indices.

© 2011 Ferrovial:

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

“This is my kind of bill.”

NTTA chairman opposes bill to require toll roads to become free roads once bonds are paid


Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2011

The chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority told Texas senators Wednesday that a bill to eliminate permanent toll roads would stop highway-building in North Texas.

“Tolling is the only way we are getting any roads built at this point in time,” Victor Vandergriff told the Senate transportation committee. “Funding from the state of Texas is not available for roads.”

His testimony came as the committee considered a bill by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, that would require toll roads to become free roads once their bonds had been paid off.
That would put a stop to so-called system financing, the standard method that NTTA uses to fund new roads.

By pledging revenues from its entire system, the agency can secure more money and better terms than it could if it tried to persuade lenders to give money based only on the projected revenues from a new road.

Throughout its history, NTTA has taken profits from one road and used them to support debt on a new road. In doing so, it does not have to wait to build a new road until the traffic it would generate is sufficient by itself to support construction and operations.

Vandergriff said the Ogden bill could put at risk billions of dollars in roads that are under way and billions more that are planned in the near future.

“It could also chill the bond markets,” he added.

Anti-toll advocates embraced the Ogden bill.

“This is my kind of bill,” said Terri Hall of Texas TURF, a grassroots organization that has been fighting toll roads, especially private toll roads. “We are totally opposed to system financing.”

Vandergriff admitted he agreed philosophically with the Ogden proposal. He recalled that his father, former Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, lobbied to create Texas’ first toll road in 1953 and, 24 years later, urged lawmakers to retire the tolls on what is now Interstate 30. He died Dec. 30.

“He spoke clearly about the dangers of tolling or system financing, and of his fears that it would be a drug that the state and Metroplex would continue” to rely on, Vandergriff said.

But he said passage of the bill would essentially stop road-building in North Texas, where nearly all major projects have been toll roads, many relying on system financing.

Hall noted that the Texas Constitution forbids “monopolies and perpetuities,” two words she said describe toll authorities.

© 2011 The Dallas Morning News:

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

"This is a serious criminal offense, to illegally detain somebody without legal authority."

Drivers detained for paying tolls with U.S. currency

Motorist uncovers state scheme to collect personal information

The news report from WTSP-TV can be seen below:


By Drew Zahn
Copyright 2011

A man in Tampa, Fla., has uncovered what he calls an illegal scheme by the state's turnpike authority to detain motorists who pay tolls with $20, $50 or $100 bills until they disclose personal information recorded by the state.

Joel Chandler first became aware of the practice when he paid a $1 toll with a $100 bill, and the toll taker refused to let his car pass until he filled out a personal information form. He then started testing the system, taping his encounters as he went through toll booths.

"This is a serious, serious criminal offense," Chandler told Tampa's WTSP-TV, "to illegally detain somebody without legal authority."

"Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws"

Chandler's brother joined the video investigation and not only found the practice widespread, but also found one toll worker who threatened to call the Florida Highway Patrol if he did not surrender the information.

When Chandler complained about the detentions, however, he says state officials denied the practice and engaged in "a very concerted effort to cover it up."

© 2011 WorldNetDaily:

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"Over 14,000 fines were issued to drivers in the past year for not paying tolls on roads, even though the drivers were nowhere near those roadways."

Toll operators issue thousands of wrong fines


ABC News (Australia)
Copyright 2011

Over 14,000 fines have been issued to drivers in the past year for not paying tolls on New South Wales roads, even though the drivers were nowhere near those roadways.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has confirmed the number of incorrect fines issued is almost twice the figure from a year before.

A car's number plate is photographed if the car is not registered with an e-tag, but spokesman Richard Boggon says sometimes the operators misread the plates and issued incorrect fines.

He says the RTA has been working with toll operators to fix the issue, and the figures need to be viewed in context.

"If we take the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel alone, the 60 million e-trips every year, last financial year 490 errors out of those 60 million occurred," he said.

"Now that's significantly down on the previous year, where 2,465 errors had occurred."

The New South Wales Opposition's roads spokesman, Andrew Stoner, says it is unacceptable that toll road operators are making these mistakes.

"It's a common experience for local MPs in regional New South Wales to have bewildered people front at their electorate office, holding a fine for a toll charge on a motorway when they were nowhere near even Sydney," he said.

© 2011 ABC News:

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